As teachers, we want our classrooms to be dynamic and engaging spaces for our students to learn and to get excited about the content we are teaching them.
Each student comes to the room with a particular skill set and background, so it can be hard to find ways to meet each student where they are and include all the content you want to teach.
To be an effective teacher, then, we must implement strategies to engage with students and to let them take ownership of their own education. As the teacher, we are always looking for new and exciting ways to reach students, and no matter how long you’ve been teaching, it can be hard to figure out what teaching practices will work best for your students.
Whether you are looking for student teaching tips or you have kids not paying attention in class, here are a few highly effective strategies and best teaching practices that you can try building into your lesson plans to bolster a love of learning and a mastery of the content.
1. Cooperative Learning
What is cooperative learning? Cooperative learning happens when students have to work together to accomplish learning goals as a unit. Small groups of students work towards a common task, which allows them to think critically without having to rely too much on their teacher.
When it comes to cooperative learning, it can happen in a few different ways. How? Students can work together on each portion of a multi-step assignment, or they can divide and conquer. Group work can be a challenge for some, so it may be good to start by having a group model cooperative behaviors or to establish rules or norms that make working in a group a peaceful, productive experience.
What do your students gain from cooperative learning? They learn individual and group accountability, they work on their social skills, and they learn the skills they need to be a team player.
Additionally, there is evidence to show that cooperative learning encourages active learning, higher group and individual achievement, stronger metacognition, and healthier relationships with peers. They learn the content, and they learn how to work together.
Kids can get competitive when it comes to games. You can capitalize on this by turning your content or review time into a game, also known as gamification. Kids spend so much time playing video games. They learn to solve problems and gain actionable feedback.
You can use your students’ love of games and desire to succeed to help them grasp the content you are teaching in your class. What are some ways to implement gamification in your classroom? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Award mastery badges: This might sound like the gold stars we used to get in kindergarten, but it’s actually a concept that is working for a lot of teachers. Badges transcend grades and leave your students with a sense of accomplishment.
- Play digital games: You can take advantage of educational games on the internet like Kahoot! and Quizziz. These are free platforms where you can find or create games to share in class that your students can play together in real time on their devices.
- Adapt games for school use: Games like Scrabble, bingo, dice games and scavenger hunts all can be turned into lessons. Want an example? German teachers can review vocabulary with a bingo game by calling out spaces based on English vocabulary words, and students can mark off a square in German—or vice versa.
3. Exit Tickets
If you want to learn more about how your students feel about what they are learning in class or discover more about what content they are and aren’t learning, you should give exit tickets (or exit slips) a try.
An exit ticket is a short survey that your students fill out before they leave your class. It may be a content-based question they have to answer, or it could be a reflection of what they learned.
Want to hear an honest answer from your students about where they need more help or clarification? Try an exit slip with one of these prompts:
- Complete the statement: “One thing I didn’t understand …”
- Write one question you have about today’s lesson.
- Discuss how today’s lesson could be applied in the real world.
- Complete the statement: “I would like to learn more about …”
You’ll feel more in tune with your students’ needs and strengths, and you’ll be able to target challenging content in the next day’s class.
4. Inquiry-Based Learning
The main concept behind inquiry-based learning is that you are encouraging students to explore their own questions and ideas. By asking them thought-provoking questions, your students are inspired to think for themselves and become independent learners.
What does inquiry-based learning look like? Rather than you as the teacher standing at the front of the room telling your students what they need to know, you give them an opportunity to explore the subject on their own. They can ask questions and share their ideas with the class.
Inquiry-based learning allows students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning process. It creates a love of learning and fosters creativity and curiosity. In addition to learning content in a way that is exciting and interesting for each student in their own way, it also teaches them how to learn, how to research and how to ask relevant questions.
Are you teaching a unit on a particular portion of German culture like holiday traditions? Let students explore these traditions on their own. Provide them with a webquest or a chance to dive into holiday-related websites and then report back with interesting customs or trivia, and let them ask questions.
5. Flip the Classroom
Have you heard about “flipping the classroom?” It’s an easy strategy to make your time in class truly instructional time where students absorb content you provide for them outside of the classroom, then come to class with questions and ideas they would like to be clarified.
Your time in the classroom can be purely instruction based. Kids can spend time learning the content before they come to class, and you get to spend in-class time on only the concepts that your students need assistance with.
So how do you flip the classroom? Students view material, like watching a video of you teaching a lesson or reading a packet, or they participate in a discussion outside of the room. When they come to class, they work in groups or as a whole to ask questions about the content. The “homework” portion of their learning happens in class, with other students in the room and while you are present to answer questions.
How can you use this in a German class? Try introducing a new verb tense with a reading packet or a video as a homework assignment. Then give students an opportunity to ask questions the next day in class and allow them time to practice conjugating verbs or writing or speaking using the new verb tense in context.
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